Belfast Telegraph

Why Christine really is the One

By Gail Walker

Isn't our own Christine Bleakley turning out to be a really class act? Her Sport Relief Waterski Challenge was a kind of David Walliams/Eddie Izzard moment when the Newtownards woman moved officially into the ranks of minor national treasure.



Yes, cynics will sneer that waterskiing across the English Channel for char-id-ee won't do her public profile much harm and, look, she fell into the water eight times.

But the point is, surely, that she did it — unlike us, snugly tucked on the sofa with a plate of Jaffa Cakes. I wouldn't fancy holding on to a tiny bit of plastic, being trawled along at 20mph across the world's busiest waterway for over an hour-and-a-half, pausing only to be dunked in the freezing water and (too-close-by-half) encounters with passing oil tankers.

Not bad for a woman who has had a phobia of water since nearly drowning as a child and can barely swim.

But then again, Bleakley is playing a blinder all-round these days. Like all women in the media, she has been subject to intense — and at times snide — scrutiny about her looks, yet she has consistently behaved with a cool grace.

Even as she prepared for her challenge, the media, following the John Terry/Ashley Cole feeding-frenzy, were snapping at her heels over her reportedly off-on relationship with Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard.

Making mischief, the hacks gleefully reported on quotes from Lampard that he was “still a single man”. Christine just sailed serenely on. They were just “having fun”, she insisted.

Still, her attitude certainly brought Lamps to heel — quite literally. Just days later he wasn't so shy about their relationship, running along behind her to an interview at Radio 1. And why wouldn't he? Because as well as providing intelligent, charming and fun company, Christine gives Lamps something that money can't buy. Class.

She's in a different league to the average footballer’s wife and girlfriend. Unlike Lampard's ex, Elen Rives, Christine will never pose in lingerie to make a quick buck nor try to be head WAG on the party scene in South Africa or blab to the Press if it all ends. That's not her style.

Christine's in the public eye, but she has the self-knowledge that she is not a media creation. She doesn't have to play by their scripts (actually, there are only two — ‘Happy Ever After' or ‘Heartbroken after acrimonious split') because she has her own career. She was successful before Frank and — if that be the fates — she'll be just as successful after Frank.

As she insisted in a recent interview, she's not a WAG. And, well, however much the media want to portray her as a fame-driven wannabe, she isn't. No hair extensions, Botox or boob jobs, Christine is what she is — a modern, ambitious, career woman. She's very attractive but in a normal way — she looks like a woman in her early thirties. That fib about being a year younger than she really is? Exactly that — a fib — and the sort of white lie that instantly endears her to women everywhere in our ageist society.

In many ways Christine is an old-style showbiz trooper. Witness her performances on Strictly Come Dancing, when she rose above the catty competitiveness of rival contestants. A genuinely warm person, she brought in a huge Northern Ireland vote.

The media's nadir was the nasty innuendo that she was somehow involved in the break-up of her One Show co-host Adrian Chiles' marriage. Their logic was, of course, irrefutable: 1) She's pretty; 2) He's getting divorced; 3) They work together. Conclusion, she's the siren who led him astray. Not a shred of evidence, but there you go — due to the magic of the media — this was suddenly some kind of fact, even though it wasn't, you know, actually true.

But Christine remained calm under sustained attack, quietly but firmly insisting on the truth that she and Chiles are friends, nothing more. To her credit, she didn't ‘dump' her mate Chiles just to give a spurious credence to her denials. No, she remained loyal to her friendship with her colleague — and there he was mid-Channel with her, cheering her on. Let the muckrakers make of that what they will.

In Northern Ireland there are very few figures that we can look to with unalloyed pride — certainly not our ever-bickering politicians.

Christine is not only a good role model for young women, but for us all.

Belfast Telegraph

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